A Good New Site for Calculating Bag Fees

One of the big complaints people have about airline fees is the ability to figure out exactly what’s being charged. It can be confusing but most of the sites that try to aggregate fees seem to only give you long lists that don’t really help that much. Now there’s a new site that takes the next step toward calculating fees for you. It’s better than most of what’s out there today, but it still has a ways to go before it’s truly a great option. Still, it’s the best we have so far, so if you have bag fee questions give iflybags.com a shot.

The site lets you enter your flight information and it spits out what bag fees will be. Here’s the advanced search screen:

iflybags Advanced Search

You can enter your flight info and it will spit back how much your bag fees will be. It even lets you enter if you have elite status or not, so you can check to see if you’re exempt (though you likely know you’re exempt if you’re an elite). Where is all this data coming from? The airlines.

Most airlines file their fares and fare rules with a central clearinghouse called the Airline Tariff Publishing Company (ATPCO). ATPCO created a new category that lets airlines file their bag fees in a standardized manner, and this new site is just putting a pretty face on that data. So if the data isn’t filed correctly or isn’t filed at all, this site won’t help. But for the vast majority of trips that Americans take, this will work quite nicely. (Even Southwest participates.)

You can use the site two ways. You can either look up the fees for the number of bags you’re planning on checking, or you can just use the site as a reference to look up the airline bag fee policies. It gets pretty deep into the weeds – if you need to check a bow and arrow, this will help. Though the reference guide is really just a long list of bag fees and isn’t the most user-friendly.

This all sounds good, right? So why do I say that it has a ways to go? Because this is really only helpful if you know the flight you’re taking. If you bought that ticket on Delta and you want to know how much you’re going to have to shell out, that’s great. But what if you’re shopping around, looking for flights to a city and a lot of airlines pop up as options? Are you really going to look up every single flight’s bag fees after you find the fares for each one? I think not. If you do, you have way too much time on your hands.

What really needs to exist is a site where you can search for flights and then specify the number of bags you’ll check. That will be married with the price for each flight so you can make an informed decision.

The ability to do this is there – ATPCO has an XML feed that could be integrated by developers. It just has to happen. The company behind iflybags is Farelogix. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Farelogix is one of the companies that provides direct connect technology to help airlines bypass the Global Distribution Systems (GDS). You can be sure that Farelogix has a good reason to do this. It will once again help prove that direct connect technology doesn’t hide fees and make shopping more difficult. This is one example of that, but it’s a visible one and it’s good for consumers.

So, if you need bag fee info for your trip, this is the place to go. Hopefully we’ll see it integrated into a booking site soon enough.

13 Responses to A Good New Site for Calculating Bag Fees

  1. Fred says:

    Instead of flight number, what if they just said ‘domestic’ or to whatever country? That is pretty much always what determines the fees, not just the flight number.
    You might not know what flight you will take, but most people have a pretty good idea of which country they are traveling to before they buy a ticket.

  2. Does the system know you are flying on a codeshare flight to give the correct info for the actual airline you will be flying and checking your bags with?

    Still seems safer to check the website of the the airline you will be flying on to be sure of the info you are getting. An airline could update their system faster then an outside source could.

    • Benjamin says:

      David– Yes, the system does handle logic for codeshare flights, in accordance with the requirements of both IATA Resolution 302 and US Department of Transportation. These rules specify which carrier’s policies are to be applied in codeshare or interline situations.

      Also, our baggage data is updated by ATPCo hourly, so as long as an airline files its change with ATPCo, iflybags should be up to date. But yes, it never is a bad idea to confirm with your airline’s website.

      Thanks for checking out iflybags, and we welcome any additional feedback.

  3. Susan says:

    Just a point of clarification on the data in this engine. Not all airlines file bag fees through ATPCo. For those airlines that don’t, iflybags is manually updating baggage policies from carrier websites which requires a human being to identify changes and interpret accurately. In other words, the data is only as good as the person making the updates. While this is a step in the right direction towards transparency, consumers should be cautious about trusting this as a single source of truth.

    • Benjamin says:

      Susan -

      As of now, only 2% of the airlines that iflybags provides information about need to be updated manually. The others are automatically updated once they are filed with ATPCo. Hopefully soon that goes down to 0% :)

  4. Mark S says:

    My biggest complaint isn’t in wanting what I am being charged for it is the inconsistencies in there prices. I can often travel cross country for less then a 600 mile flight home. sometimes it is also cheaper to fly from Philadelphia to La then it is to fly to Florida. The airlines are always complaining about not making any money and I think it is because of the pricing. Why not set an average low and high for all flights going everywhere and work within that range that way people can say the flight is a little high maybe I will wait a little longer to book rather then look and say the price is way to high and just stay home.

  5. David M says:

    TripAdvisor’s flight search has a fee estimator feature. After you perform the search, click the Fees Estimator link and a popup will allow you to enter the number of bags you plan to check and which airlines you’re an elite member ofm and baggage fees will be included in the computation for the price. You can also select in-flight amenities you expect to purchase, though the estimated costs for these are shown separately and aren’t included in the listed fare.

    • Tom P says:

      I think that you can include baggage fees on a Trip Advisor search in two ways. One is the method described by David M and the second is beforehand so that the search results are already ranked by factors that affect baggage fees. Thus, no need to go checking flight by flight or airline by airline.

    • CF says:

      I’m a little late getting back to this, but you’re right. I forgot about the TripAdvisor flight search (which is a whole different problem for the company), but it does get pretty close to doing this the right way.

  6. Tony says:

    Baggage fees are soooo Byzantine. So much so that it takes longer to board and sit with all the carry-on luggage packed to the gills. Especially with families with each kid entitiled to a carry-on. Why not reverse the fees. Charge for carry-ons and make checked in luggage free. This way airlines can speed up the boardings and save time. Moreover it is safer for the flight attendants and passengers.

    • Lucy says:

      What about charging for both then? (Not that I think they should) This would certainly stop people bringing too much stuff with them.

      It costs more to the airline to deal with checked bags, as opposed to carry on bags, where you have to deal with them yourself for the most part.

  7. Ron says:

    Cranky’s idea to “search for flights and then specify the number of bags” is only a partial solution, because whether or not I bring a bag to check may depend on the fees. For example, on a 4-day trip I might prefer to check a bag but it’s not a very important concern, so perhaps checking a bag is worth $10 to me. If jetBlue (free bag) is only $5 more expensive than Delta (no free bags) then I’ll happily book jetBlue, but if the price differential is $15 then I’ll go with Delta and jam my stuff into a carry-on. A search engine that only has the option to display (and rank) flights with or without bags is not good enough, because my considerations are more complex.

    People likewise have private valuations for entertainment, legroom, number of connections, choice of coterminals, and so on. And the preferences may change based on the purpose of the trip, its length, travel companions, you name it. Travelers’ preferences form a very complex utility function, which I’m not even sure most travelers can fully articulate. A Really Useful Engine will find and display flights to best match these preferences (and shunt some boxcars).

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